Friday, August 3, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Arjuna Award for Milkha, Abhinav
Khel Ratna for Gopichand
M.S. Unnikrishnan

New Delhi, August 2
Young Olympian shooter Abhinav Bindra of Chandigarh added another feather to his cap when he was selected for the Arjuna Award here today. Hockey player Baljeet Singh Saini and wrestler Randhir Singh are among the 14 nominated for the Arjuna Award while Gurdial Singh Banghu has been chosen for the Dronacharya Award. In fact, Punjab has been given enough weightage in this year’s awards as veterans Milkha Singh, Balkishan Singh and Gurbir Singh Sandhu figure among the awardees for the “life time contribution” category. The awards were announced by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports here today.

All-Engalnd badminton champion Pullela Gopichand has been rewarded for his consistent performance in the shuttle game by nominating him for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for 2000-2001. Badminton has been given pride of place as national coach S.M. Arif, who is also the mentor of Gopichand, has been bestowed with the Dronacharya Award while George Thomas has been named for the Arjuna Award. Gopichand had received the Arjuna Award last year.

It is learnt that national women’s badminton champion and Olypian Aparna Popat’s name had also been shortlisted for the Arjuna Award, but was struck off the list at the last minute due to her name figuring in the “dope list” compiled by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

Ironically, the same yardstick was not applied in the case of athlete K M Beenamol and weightlifter Sanamacha Chanu, whose names also reportedly figure in the SAI list of athletes who have been tested positive for drugs. Beenamol had entered the 400m semifinal while Sanamacha had finished sixth in her weight category in the Olympic Games at Sydney in 2000.

For cricketer Venkatesh Prasad, his recall into the Indian Test team coincided with his nomination for the Arjuna Award. In all, 14 sportspersons have been selected for the Arjuna Award in the regular category, and two in the handicapped category. The Dronacharya Award will be given to five coaches.

In the “Life Time Contribution” category, 14 veteran sportsperons have been nominated for the Arjuna Award while one goes to an handicapped sportsman. The awards will be presented by President of India K.R. Narayanan at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29.

Last year’s combined list for 1998-99 and 2000-2001 had contained only 23 sportspersons for the Arjuna Award and eight for the Dronacharya Award. Hockey Olympian Dhanraj Pillai was the recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award last year.

It took the selection panel, presided over by Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Uma Bharati, several sittings to finalise the award winners as this time, there were a large number of contenders for both the Arjuna and Dronacharya awards. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award carries a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh while Dronacharya and Arjuna Awards carry Rs 2.50 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh, respectively.

The roll of honour this year is:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for 2000-2001: Pullela Gopichand (badminton).

Dronacharya Award for 2000: Gurdial Singh Banghu (hockey), Hansa Sharma (weightlifting), Phadke Gopal Purushottam (kho-kho), S.M. Arif (badminton) and Bhupender Dhawan (powerlifting).

Arjuna Award for 2000: K.M. Beenamol (athletics), D.K. Venkatesh Prasad (cricket), Baljeet Singh Saini and Tingonleima Chanu (hockey), Abhinav Bindra and Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat (shooting), Sebastian Xavier and J. Abhijit (swimming), Randhir Singh and Kripa Shankar Patel (wrestling), George Thomas (badminton), C. Honnappa (kabaddi), S. Vijayalakshmi Subbaramani (chess) and Sanamacha Chanu Thingbaijam (weightlifting). Handicapped: Yadvendra Vashishta (athletics) and Vijay Bhalchandra Munishwar (athletics and powerlifting).

Life Time Contribution category: Dr Kalpana Debnath (gymnastics), R.S. Bhola, Balkishan Singh, Jalaluddin Rizvi and Madhu Yadav (all hockey), Gurbir Singh Sandhu (shooting), late K.D. Yadav (wrestling, the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in an individual event, a bronze), Naresh Kumar (wrestling), Milkha Singh, Rachana Govil and Vijayamala Bhanot (athletics), Akhtar Ali (tennis), P.V. Ramana (volleyball) and Surender Singh Kanwasi (rowing). Handicapped: Joginder Singh Bedi (athletics).Back

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